Hello and welcome to Daily Crunch for Thursday, May 27. From the home desk, TechCrunch has a few notes to share. First, we’re hosting a virtual meetup in Pittsburgh as part of our national tour spotlighting neat startup markets. And if you are a super early-stage founder, you can still apply to take part in the upcoming Battlefield competition at Disrupt. Do it. It’s going to be a blast. See you at both! -- Alex
The TechCrunch Top 3
Lots of people are working on NFTs: Whether you’re a crypto fan or not, you’ve heard of non-fungible tokens, or NFTs. If you have already digested the NBA TopShot hype wave, buckle in, because a lot of folks are still building in the NFT world. That includes Anima, which is bringing AR to NFTs and just raised new capital from Coinbase, and Infinite Objects, which just raised $6 million to help folks bring their NFTs IRL.
Europe probes American clouds: Here at Daily Crunch, we’ve noted a number of government-and-tech stories in recent weeks, none of them positive. Today’s news is another note in that particular theme, with Natasha reporting that “Europe’s lead data protection regulator has opened two investigations into EU institutions’ use of cloud services from U.S. cloud giants.”
A window into the economics of fintech: Also out today was news that Acorns, an American consumer fintech company that helps regular folks save and invest their money, is going public via a blank-check company. We dug into its results, learning that such fintech startups can build great businesses. It’s just expensive to do so.
Startups and VC
We have our usual mix of funding rounds below, but first a note on diversity in the venture capital world. Collab Capital this week announced a $50 million fund to invest in Black founders, which TechCrunch covered here. And today we wrote about a $250 million growth fund that will reserve half its profits to donate to historically Black colleges and universities. More of this, please.
Now, the day’s hottest funding rounds:
Breinify raises $11M to bring data science to marketing: A good theme in tech recently has been bringing capabilities previously reserved for the technically trained to teams of nontechnical folks. No-code does this at times, for example. Breinify is doing something related, namely “working to apply data science to personalization, and do it in a way that makes it accessible to nontechnical marketing employees to build more meaningful customer experiences,” according to TechCrunch. For marketing teams currently stuck waiting for the engineering team to get back to them, this will prove more than welcome.
RevenueCat raises $40M to help developers leverage in-app subscriptions: RevenueCat now has a huge new check at a $300 million valuation, but more than that, it’s changed its cost structure, offering different tiers of service that are priced not on a per-head basis, but on how much revenue a company is tracking at any given point in time (on-demand pricing is hot). RevenueCat, you can math out, costs 0.8% to 1.2% cut of tracked revenue, depending on what sort of functionality a company needs. For anyone building in-app subscriptions and looking for help, RevenueCat wants to be cheap to start and lucrative as its customers scale.
And then there were robots: Our own Brian Heater compiled a super great look at the world of robotics startups and their recent fundraising. TerraClear recently raised $25 million for its rock-picking-up tractor-robot. Bowery Farms recently raised $300 million as we noted here at Daily Crunch, but we failed to mention how “robots, sensors and AI are a big part of [its] vertical farming approach.” Very cool.
Heater has more notes in the posts, but the key takeaway is that not every robot comes from the weird place between Uncanny Valley and Boston Dynamics.
SaaS needs to take a page out of the crypto playbook
It seems like a great time to launch a SaaS startup, but the landscape is crowded with well-designed applications that promise "blazingly fast and delightfully simple" experiences.
Most of these will fail, but not because of a marketing campaign or server downtime. In most cases, SaaS startups fall victim to what seed-stage investor John Chen of Fika Ventures calls "the myth of frictionless onboarding."
Despite the hype, enterprise companies are always asking us to learn how to use new tools. "Just like with a new fitness program, participants feel good after completing the workout, but it takes a lot of activation energy to start and hard work to get there," says Chen.
Instead of putting the onus on customers to roll up their sleeves, SaaS startups should learn from cryptocurrency culture and find ways to "incentivize users to do the necessary work to have the right experience."
(Extra Crunch is our membership program, which helps founders and startup teams get ahead. You can sign up here.)
Big Tech Inc.
Today we’re mostly talking about Twitter, but before we do, is Ford about to win a chunk of the electric vehicle market? Two years ago I would have scoffed at the notion, but between what feel like strong pre-orders for its electric pickup and a huge bet on internal battery R&D, it’s now a question worth asking.
On the Twitter front, there are two things to know. First, that Twitter is not taking incoming fire from the current Indian government sitting down. And, second, that Twitter’s product work has been pretty fast-paced lately, which is more than welcome.
Regarding India, TechCrunch’s Manish Singh reports that “Twitter called the recent visit by police to its Indian offices a form of intimidation and said it was concerned by some of the requirements in New Delhi’s new IT rules.” Good.
Here at Daily Crunch, we called the matter attempted intimidation, so it’s nice to see the company also stating the obvious. And fighting back. The Indian government’s push to censor Twitter smacks of a CCP-style crackdown on speech that the ruling regime deems too true to be read. Down with that sort of thinking.
On the product front, Twitter is rolling out its Clubhouse-competing Spaces product to desktop machines. Normally I’d skip such an incremental Twitter feature, but in this case it fits into the recent rapid-fire product cadence from the social network, which was famously slow for years and years. Then something changed, allowing the company to ship all sorts of products and services. The company’s even moving toward some sort of email newsletter-subscription-audio-tipping product amalgamation that could prove to be very, very interesting to creators.
Who expected to be excited by Twitter’s dev team this year? It’s a nice surprise.
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